Tamaulipas under her former name, Hugoton. Photo courtesy of Captain Edward C. March.

The Sinking of the Tamaulipas:

The tanker was originally called the Hugoton. It was owned by Mallory & Company of New York, NY. In 1941, the ship was sold to the Mexican Trading and Shipping Company and renamed the Tamaulipas. The Tamaulipas was named after a state that sits on the Gulf of Mexico coast (see map below). The tanker would deliver petroleum products from Tampico to refineries in the United States.


The tanker operated out of Wilmington, Delaware, and would deliver fuel oil between Tampico and New York. On this particular delivery, the tanker left Tampico on April 2, 1942, with 10,200 tons of oil and headed to New York. Under the command of Captain Allan Falkenberg, the unarmed tanker sailed without any escort and no instructions on what route to follow. It was left up to the captain to determine its course and take whatever precautions he felt necessary to avoid any U-boat attacks.

The tanker approached Cape Lookout on the evening of April 9. At 10:00 PM,  a lookout reported that a torpedo had just crossed the tanker's wake. Though they were skeptical of his report, the captain ordered the Tamaulipas to begin a zigzag course as a precaution. So the helmsman would steer the tanker from 20° left of the course to 20° right. Then another crewman reported hearing the sound of a motor astern. The captain then ordered the tanker to make an immediate 50° turn to starboard. Captain Falkenberg hoped that with this maneuver, the tanker would become a more difficult target. After giving the order, the captain went into the radio shack to check if there were any communications between other ships in the area perhaps reporting any activity. The airwaves were silent.

The midnight lookout had just come on duty and twenty minutes later there was a horrific blast on the starboard side abaft the amidships house, in #5 tank. The explosion and fire tore the Tamaulipas in half. The attacking U-boat, U-552, had just recently successfully sunk the tanker, Atlas. It now had hit its second victim. Within five minutes of the attack, the captain knew the ship was in grave danger and ordered the crew to abandon the ship. Already, two men, Third Mate Lloyd Crampton and Boatswain Harry Ritner who were on the bridge were killed.

The men who escaped in the #1 and #3 lifeboats were able to move away far enough away from the burning ship and oil surrounding the ship. After an hour and a half, the surviving 35 crew members were rescued by the HMS Norwich City, who had previously rescued the crew from the Atlas. The crews from both tankers were taken to Morehead City, North Carolina.


Built: 1919 Sunk: April 10, 1942
Type of Vessel: Tanker Owner: Mexico Shipping & Trading Company, New York, NY
Builder: Bethlehem Ship Building Corp., Sparrow's Point, MD Power: Oil-fired Steam
Port of registry: Wilmington, DE Dimensions: 434'  x 56'  x 31' 
Previous Names: Hugoton  


Here is the location of the sinking: 34° 25'N, 76° 00'W 



Total Lost: 2, Survivors: 35

LastFirstDate of DeathPositionHomeAge
Crampton, Jr. Lloyd Bowlby April 10, 1942 Fourth Mate North Plainfield, NJ  
Ritner Harry Norton April 10, 1942 Boatswain Galveston, TX  


A  listing of the surviving crew: 

 Falkenberg Allan Victor Master/Captain      


Photos of  Tamaulipas:

Tamaulipas as the Hugoton. Photo courtesy of the Steamship Historial Society of America.

Steering quadrant. Photo courtesy of Hoyt, NOAA 


Divers over the northern stern section of Tamaulipas examing the engine and boiler. Photo courtesy of  Hoytt, NOAA.
Triple expansion three-cylinder engine. Photo courtesy of  Hoyt, NOAA.
Multibeam sonar visualization of the aft section of the Tamaulipas wreck site. Photo courtesy of  ADUS/NOAA.
Sonar visualization of the forward section of the Tamaulipas wreck site. Photo courtesy of ADUS/NOAA.
Multibeam survey of the aft section of Tamaulipas wreck site. Photo courtesy of ADUS/NOAA.
Sharks swim over the wreck site. Photo courtesy of  Hoyt, NOAA.
Tamaulipas engine. Photo courtesy of  Paul M. Hudy.
On the stern deck and down the hold. Photo courtesy of  Paul M. Hudy.
Sandtiger shark swims across the stern deck. Photo courtesy of  Paul M. Hudy.


On the stern deck and down the hold. Photo courtesy of  Paul M. Hudy. 
Framing of the stern fantail curve with anchor bolted in center-right of the picture. Photo courtesy of  Paul M. Hudy.
Portside boiler with deck rising in the background. Photo courtesy of  Paul M. Hudy.
Stern steering station toppled into the sand. Photo courtesy of  Paul M. Hudy.
Upside down bow section at the break. Photo courtesy of  Paul M. Hudy.
Upside down bow at bowpoint. Photo courtesy of  Paul M. Hudy.

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